Monday, July 25, 2016

We Need a New Food Group

“If I have to eat another piece of broiled fish, I’ll scream.”  So announced my life-long friend, whose dinner plans now revolve around her husband’s diet. 

I know the feeling.  My husband wants the same thing for lunch every day—a tortilla filled with black beans, melted cheese, hummus, salsa and hot sauce.  On the bright side that’s one less meal I have to think about, but I don’t want to eat that day after day.

I’m hoping someone will discover a new food group, something totally different from the usual options.  A few years ago quinoa was the exciting go-to food.  Then I ate a quinoa salad made by someone who didn’t know to thoroughly rinse this grain before cooking to wash away the bitterness.  That killed my taste for quinoa.

Before that, tofu reigned for a while.  However, only some members of my family will eat it.  Oats had a short run, even winding up in Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I’m not a horse—even though I occasionally eat like one. 

Until something better comes along, I’m going to designate Homemade Pizza as my new food group.  I’ve loved it since high school, and it remains a Saturday night favorite at our house.  Bring on pepperoni, mushrooms, tomatoes, anchovies and extra onions.  It’s one meal we all like.  Maybe I’ll work on a diet version for my friend’s husband.

Unbaked Pizza
Basic Pizza – makes 2 10-inch pizzas  
Dough
2 1/4 teaspoons or 1 packet (1/4-ounce) dry yeast    
1 teaspoon brown sugar 
2/3 cup water (or more if needed) 
2 cups flour (or more if needed) 
2 tablespoons olive oil + more to grease the bowl 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
Toppings
1 jar pizza sauce (or make your own)  
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 
1 small onion, thinly sliced (optional) 
4 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced (optional) 
Pepperoni slices (optional) 
Other toppings you prefer 
Prepare the Dough
Using a food processor or an electric mixer with a dough hook: 
Add the yeast and sugar to the bowl.  Then add 1/3 cup water and stir to dissolve.  (My food processor leaks if I add more water at this point.)  Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes.  
Add the flour, olive oil, salt and rest of the water and process or beat on slow speed to incorporate.  Add more flour as necessary, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough stops being sticky and becomes smooth and satiny.  If the dough is too dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and process or beat until it becomes smooth and satiny.  In a food processor, this takes about 1 minute; in a mixer 5 to 6 minutes.  
Mixing by hand: 
Pour the water into a large bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast and sugar into the water and stir to dissolve.  Add 1 1/2 cups of flour, olive oil and salt and mix with a wooden spoon.  
Sprinkle 1/4 cup flour onto a dry, clean work surface and carefully transfer the dough onto the flour.  Knead the dough by folding it over and over on itself while pushing it with your hands, for 8 to 10 minutes.  Gradually add more flour as necessary, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is smooth and satiny.  
Pour 1 teaspoon olive oil into a large bowl and spread around with a paper towel.  Be sure to grease the sides as well as the bottom.  Place the kneaded dough in the bowl and turn it over so that the top is greased.  Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel, set aside on a counter and let rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.  
While the dough is rising, prepare the toppings. 
About 20 minutes before you are ready to make the pizzas, put a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and begin heating the oven to 505 degrees (or high).  If you don’t have a pizza stone, use a heavy-duty baking sheet. 
Sprinkle a pizza paddle or the back of a baking sheet with cornmeal or flour to prevent the pizza dough from sticking. 
Divide the pizza dough in half.  Stretch one of the halves into a rough circle about 10 inches in diameter and place on the paddle or baking sheet.  Pinch together any holes. 
Spread the pizza sauce over the pizza and sprinkle on 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese.  Add your toppings.  Slide the pizza off the paddle onto the pizza stone and bake for 8 minutes.  If you don’t have a pizza stone, use the baking sheet itself to bake the pizza. Repeat with second pizza.  Cut and serve immediately. 
NOTE: Pizza stones are available from $10-$35.
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